Four Elements of Applied Art

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Art is a form of communication. It is a means in which an artist makes something for someone else, who gets some meaning out of it.

The four elements of applied art are:

1) The thing you make.

2) The way you make it.

3) Why you are making it.

4) How you make it work for the person who will get the meaning out of it.

The four elements of applied art are:

A. The Artistic Element, which is the creative application of imagination.

B. The Analytical Element, which is the scientific analysis and measurement of the factors involved in a problem.

C. The Social Element, which is the study and analysis of people, their backgrounds and motivations, their habits and customs, their strengths and weaknesses as individuals, as groups, and as a whole social pattern or system.

A. The Artistic Element: Imagination

The artistic element is concerned with conceiving new ideas and giving them form in an appropriate medium. It involves both (1) the use of originality of thought; and (2) the ability to communicate that originality by translating it into a visual form that others can appreciate. There are three aspects: (1) Imagination itself; (2) The ability to express that imagination in visual terms-drawing or modeling or composing or whatever medium is called for; (3) A knowledge of appropriate media-what medium will do what you want it to do best.

An artist has first to imagine what he wants to express. He may do this in any way he wishes, either by direct visualization or by a more indirect process such as writing or talking

Applied art is a culture-independent concept. It includes any activity that adds value to your life. The word “art” is drawn from the Latin ars, which originally meant “skill.” Applied art is skill applied to some practical purpose.

The first and most important part of applied art is to figure out what you want your life to be like. You can’t improve anything until you know what it’s supposed to be like.

Then you need a plan for making that vision become reality, and then putting the plan into action. The plan will almost certainly require some kind of special training, or access to a supply of something you will need but that isn’t available locally.

Training in applied art often involves learning a set of tools and techniques: things you can do or make, or ways of thinking about things, that help achieve your goals.

Applied art often requires skills in social engineering: learning how to convince other people to help you, and how to motivate yourself once other people are helping you.

What is applied art? You might think it’s a contradiction in terms. Art is an expression of individual creativity and freedom, applied to what? The power structures of the organization. But in fact these two sides are inseparable.

To be creative, you have to work within constraints: a canvas size, paint colors, a given style. What does it mean to be free under those conditions? It means you can break out, if only for a little while. Creativity is freedom that begins with constraint and ends in conventionality.

Applied art is not pure art, but neither is it merely business as usual. In the act of creation, an artist applies her own vision to the situation before her; in the act of applying it, she makes something new.

Applied art is both art and craft. The craftsmanship matters because it makes the art possible; the art matters because it brings meaning to the craftsmanship. Repeatability is not enough for business purposes; you also need outcomes with some human meaning.

Art is a human invention. It is not a human discovery, like the laws of motion or the laws of thermodynamics. It is created by an individual, even if that individual is assisted by other artists.

But art is more than just a creation; it is a communication. Art communicates ideas and feelings, which are mental states. Mathematics and logic can also be seen as ways of communicating ideas, but they are not primarily visual (except for graph theory). And mathematics and logic are about truth, not beauty.

Hence the difference between applied art and pure science. Pure science seeks truth; applied art seeks beauty. Applied art uses the methods of science, but applied scientists use the methods of applied art: they seek to communicate something through form.

I have in mind a very concrete example from my own work on programming languages: the design of Lisp’s s-expression syntax.[S1] In retrospect it seems inevitable that Lisp should have s-expressions; I had already designed two languages with s-expression syntax before I thought to ask why I was doing it that way.

If you look at a painting, the artist’s goal is to create a beautiful picture. If you look at a building, its goal is to support the roof and keep out the rain.

The first level of complexity in art is that there are different goals for different people. Some want to be artists, others want to own art, others just want some art around that isn’t ugly. And then there are even more complicated goals: some people want their art to inspire other people, some want it to make them rich.

This can be generalized into a rule of thumb: The more complex your desired outcome is, the more complex your design needs to be.

If you just want something expensive and beautiful, you can get that with minimal effort by buying jewelry or artwork. But if you want something cheap and beautiful or easy and beautiful or social and beautiful, something that fits into some unusual situation or dovetails with other things in some unusual way, then you need to put in more work than just buying one of those things off the shelf.

When you are trying to solve a problem, you need to define the problem. This is one of the most important skills in engineering.

The most common mistake beginners make is defining the problem in terms of the solution. The second most common mistake is not defining the problem at all.

For example, people who want to lose weight often focus on solutions–going on a diet, exercising more–rather than first understanding what it is they are trying to accomplish. If your goal is just to lose weight (or get rich), you may be ignoring other things that are even more important to you. Or, if you think achieving some goal will solve all your problems, you might be overlooking other important goals that would be better achieved another way.

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